12:33 GMT +318 January 2019
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    Trump ‘Verbally’ Confirmed He’ll Be at ASEAN Summit in Philippines

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    The official in charge of organizing the 2017 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit has said that US President Donald Trump “verbally” confirmed that he would attend this year’s meeting, which will be held in November in the Philippines.

    On Wednesday Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr, the summit’s director-general for operations, told reporters, "As of now, President Trump, for instance, when President Duterte called him up to congratulate him, had already indicated that he is coming in November. At least verbally, he said he is coming," according to Rappler. 

    If Trump shows, the ASEAN summit could be the first time Trump meets with Duterte. That’s if the US president doesn’t attend China’s Belt and Road Summit, a meeting of Beijing’s allies to discuss the New Silk Road Plan, in mid-May. Though Duterte will be in attendance at the May summit, Trump has not yet confirmed.

    The two heads of state seemed to get on well when Duterte called Trump in December 2016 to congratulate him on his election victory, and Trump wished Duterte success with his controversial War on Drugs. Dutere later impersonated Trump at public events when recounting the phone call.

    After they spoke, Manila presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella remarked, "We can say at this stage, that our relationship with the US is improving." 

    Duterte had a difficult relationship with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, as the former US president criticized a series of killings tied to the Philippines leader’s Drug War, prompting Duterte to tell Obama to "go to hell," calling him a "son of a whore," — for which he later apologized — and threatening that he might "break up with America."

    If Trump does attend the ASEAN summit, he’ll stay at the Mimosa Leisure Estate, according to Luzon Ronnie Tiotuico, who directs the Philippine’s Department of Tourism. The Philippine Star reported that some 4,000 people are expected to attend the event, though Tiotuico said he wasn’t sure whether Chinese President Xi Jinping would come.

    Paynor said that with "Multilateral meetings of this sort, you usually expect 100% attendance. Many of the leaders who do not attend do so because of internal issues," although “one or two" leaders may not be able to attend.

    Leaders from New Zealand, South Korea, the US, Japan, Australia, China are expected at the meeting, along with representatives from ASEAN’s 9 other member states.

    The summit and related meetings are scheduled to take place November 10 through 14.


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